Socially-paranoid media: where did it all go wrong? (rant)

What’s really happened to social media these days?  What used to be a fun place to share untethered banter, humor, intellectual conversation and debate, perhaps be a little risqué,  has degenerated into a stuffy medium for puffing up corporate brand mush, and regurgitating the same old bland insight we’re having pushed at us daily.  Every corporate suit is now on there, lauding how amazing their company is… praising their clients and uttering meaningless, hollow words of adulation. In fact, many of the “senior” people on there have their marketing people even their social for them these days… it’s not even them…

All of you know I do like to dabble a bit with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to engage with people – both with people I like socially (Facebook) and industry contacts with whom I consider valuable to stay in regular touch (LinkedIn).  I also have the luxury of being the boss, so no one can fire me 😉

Over the years, social has been terrific for communicating with people, sharing insights, opinions, research, news… it’s been fun, and it’s been personal. It keeps you connected with so many people that when you bump into folks at conferences etc., it feels like you spoke just the other day, rather than five years’ ago…

But, in recent months, it’s just become so polarized and stuffy. There are people using social only to promote themselves and their companies… the personality has drained from it. I find myself spending more time removing connections than adding new ones.

Case-in-point, I dared to post some (slightly dubious) research on LinkedIn the other day with a joke about how much analysts need to be wined and dined to get the best scatterplot grid placements.  I didn’t even criticize the research, I just popped up the grid with a joke on the axes about boondoggles and posh dinners.  Within about three hours of posting, I received some really snotty comments from the analyst firm in question berating me for daring to poke a little fun at one of its lovely magic grids. They were pretty nasty about it too.  And then I got an aggressive note from a marketing guy in one of the suppliers (which was nicely positioned in said grid), complaining about my “unprofessionalism” for poking fun at a competitor.

So I took the offending post down – my intent was to generate some banter about the techniques suppliers use to get positioned well in these grids, not a bunch of nastiness from people who just seem so bloody paranoid these days.

To cap this all off, I then get a phone call from the boss of the marketing guy (who complained about my post) requesting me to put it back up as they were getting so much free publicity from it (20K+ eyeballs).  You just can’t win at this, can you?

So where do we go with this?

  • Hone your network to people you get value from. If you find people offensive or not adding value to you, then just remove them, rather than create a nasty discussion thread
  • Get a sense of humor: arguments can be fun. If you disagree with someone, but the conversation us useful, then voice your disagreement about the topic and have a proper discussion… don’t just criticise and disappear. Use the forum to exchange views and ideas – you never know, some good may come of it.  If we all just agreed with each other all the time, we’d never leaning anything…
  • Drop the ego. These are networks where you agreed to exchange information with people, so be prepared to see things you have an opinion about.  And be prepared to be criticized – that’s the whole purpose of this stuff.  If you can’t handle a little professional debate, then stick to Facebook and the pictures of dogs and babies…
  • Be open to the fact that the opinions or research you put out may be flawed. We should be willing to learn from each other and accept some input, flattering or not. If you think I am smoking something, just tell me… and I’ll do the same with you.  Challenging each other is they only way we learn and get better at what we do.

(Cross-posted @ Horses for Sources)


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Founder and Chief Executive Officer of HfS Research, the leading global research analyst organization covering global sourcing strategies. Acclaimed Industry Analyst and Consultant who scribes the leading blog for the services industry "Horses for Sources".  Previously worked  at AMR Research (Gartner Inc),  Deloitte Consulting’s BPO Advisory Services, the  Everest Group and  IDC .  In 2010, Phil was named “IIAR Analyst of the Year” by the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR). This is the most coveted global award for industry analysts in technology and services.